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30 June 2005
What I learned at Standard Tap last night.
Okay, the end result of my bumble/stumble/crumble last week is that I have a headache and a pain in the ass. Several folks have already expressed the option that this is a case of real poetic justice.

Screw 'em.

I can sit down long enough to, well, drive to the Standard Tap, and that's what I did last night, for Dan Weirback's press conference and Decadence tasting (the latter being the real draw) in the upstairs bar. Lots of good stuff, and I've already put up--at the Beer Yard site, where else?--all the Weyerbacher news, Big Jim Young news and, courtesy of the inevitable Ruch earlier this afternoon, Christine Bump and "Bill Junior" news.

Hey, you can't keep a good man down.

Among those hanging out was Monk's honcho Tom Peters and, to give you an idea of why you really want to seek out Decadence while you can (always been my motto), we ended up talking about whether it would be better served at his upcoming Tom's Favorite Local Beers dinner as one of three aperitif beers pre-dinner or as a digestive at the close. It's got that kind of range and seductive appeal. Tom also managed to guess almost immediately the "secret spice" in Decadence (which, I've always thought, was spice enough in itself), but we're not telling. Nobody came up with the botanical so far, or at least nobody told me.

By the by, that nice Mr. Peters is due to call me any-minute-now with the list of beers which will be pouring at the Favorite Local dinner, so if you check back on that link in a bit, you'll be the first in your neighborhood with the scoop.

Also hanging out last night, but acting very standoffish and ignoring the hell out of me was that Scoats guy, and given his attitude, I'm not going to bother telling you about this or this, even though they both look like great fun. That'll teach him.

In other news, the local beer drivers strike was averted in a Union vote last Thursday and, as of today, the Lion strike is over.

that's it. Go back to what you were doing. I gotta go stand up now.

[Posted 1:25 pm edt]

27 June 2005
In case you're wondering.
Our staff took a bit of a header last week. Okay, a serious header. On cement. Heads were cracked, coccyges seriously bruised or possibly fractured (not that it matters, since there's nothing to be done in any case), spirits shattered and deadlines rent asunder.

Everyone is in rehab, healing, catching up and figuring out how to sit for more than few minutes without leaping up in agony. Anything written here under such conditions would be mean-spirited, angry and generally unpleasant. Who needs that?

This too shall pass. Or not. We'll see.

[Posted 8:40 am edt]

19 June 2005
Getting it right.
As I noted in yesterday's post, I'm getting better at coping with life. Here, for example, was the way yesterday was supposed to go:

8 - 11 AM: Breakfast, edit and revise my story about this place so I could move on to my story about this place , both of which should appear in the August/September Celebrator Beer News, along with the regular "Atlantic Ale Trail" column, a pair of book reviews and, maybe, the Cask Ale story promised in the last column. This is the annual travel issue, so that latter piece might get pushed back until October/November if there's a crunch on editorial space.

11 AM - 2 PM: Drive down to Standard Tap to drop off their allotment of the current Celebrator, maybe have a beer, check out the site of the forthcoming Foodery II (see below) and, if time permitted, do a bit of shopping for needed food items on the way home.

3 - 11 PM: Drive up to Harrisburg for this , work at staying very sober all the while, then drive home.

Very little of that actually happened. Here's what did:

I got to my desk around 8:30 AM and found lots of email to be dealt with, including working with the wonderful Rob Davis to put together our weekly political cartoon and scheduling various financial transactions that need to take place this coming week. After that, I felt an urge to write and post something over here, and so I did. When I finally raised my head to take a look at the clock, it was 11:15.

Off to the Tap, with a stop at the Post Office first, where I found a shirt and CD waiting as a Father's Day gift from my son, who's now working as the IT and internet guy here, which means I should go visit him right soon. The Expressway, of a Saturday morn, was inexplicably a total mess in both directions, so it was after noon when I finally got to Northern Liberties.

That "maybe have a beer" thing moved from potentiality to reality as soon as I stepped inside the Tap and, once ensconced at the bar, I found it, as I always do, difficult to leave. This is one of those bars where conversations develop almost immediately, whether you're a regular or don't know a soul. There was a wonderful cool breeze coming through the open door and windows and I moved right into my comfort zone.

Sipping pints of Stoudt's Pils (damn, I love their beers these days) and Yard's Philadelphia Pale Ale (now the brew featured in the aged 'fridge behind the bar), I slid myself neatly into conversations about why it's illegal to drive barefoot, the efficacy of the big and information-packed Gay & Lesbian Film Festival catalogue, how many ounces there are in a keg of beer (a half is 1984 fluid ounces, or 15½ gallons; working in my head, using roughly 2.5 cases for a sixtel, I came up with 2100-plus ounces, which wasn't bad) and nude beaches, pro or con.

For this latter, our bartender insisted there ought to be standards. "If I get to choose who gets on the beach, then I'm all for it," she said. "People ought to be carded at the gate," offered the guy to my right."Well, yeah," I interjected, "but where would they carry their cards?" Suggestions were offered, but they're not appropriate here.

I was out of there by 2 and, using the back roads and unknown passageways I learned over the years in order to whisk through the Main Line, I was at The Beer Yard within half an hour, long enough to use the facilities and have a sip from my first bottle (in, what, three years?) of Victory Sunrise Weissbier. Oh. My. Freakin'. God. Maybe it was just my mood--it certainly couldn't have been the ambiance--but it just blew me away. This has always been a great beer, understand, but I don't ever remember its tasting this good.

Quick stops at the Whole Foods Market down the road for some whole bean La Colombe Nizza for my daily Cappuccinos and at Trader Joe's for jars of their Rustico Pomodora Pasta Sauce (my current choice as the "base" sauce from which I build my own extraordinary concoction) and I was home by 3:30. Still more than time enough to head for Harrisburg....

But I didn't. Nor did I drive over to Camp Terry, where the Big One, the Other One, dozens of the Other One's relatives (except for the one who's, y'know, in prison or the witness protection program or some such) and selected other pals and beer folk were gathered. I didn't feel like trekking to a beer festival 90 minutes away and I didn't feel like being humiliated at horseshoes (which seems to be one of the purposes of these annual Rubeo family gatherings). So I did neither, instead loosed the dogs, pulled a pint of Sly Fox Savannah Maibock from my home draft system and went out to the back yard and sat under that big tree in the center background there.

Hey, it wasn't a day off exactly (I'm not sure I'm even capable of such any more), but it was nice and it was mine.

Foodery II.
The story of a second Foodery opening in Northern Liberties has been out there for a while now, without much notice, but it finally bubbled to the surface at BeerAdvocate.com last week. The site is directly across from Standard Tap on the lower level of the new condo complex that went up there over the past several months. It's $389,000 to live in the building according to the signs; at those prices, it would be nice to walk downstairs to buy some good beer, wouldn't it? And, as was noted by several New Jersey Beer Advocates (lord, talk about having two strikes against you...), it would also be a real boon to Tap patrons from the hinterlands.

As it turns out, Liquid Diet Online is fortunate enough to have an "informed source" on this story, fortunate because getting information out of the official side of the Foodery operation is, well, not all that easy. Our source is in no-way official but he's been asking questions and questioning answers for us recently and this is what he got.

Construction is expected to start next month (before that, there's the requisite public meeting on the transferred liquor license; in about a week or so,if I remember the date on the ubiquitous orange sign in the window correctly) and the space, which looks near double that of the current location to my eye, will hold 18 coolers (there are 13 at 10th & Pine). Indications are that they will have a larger and more serious food capability than they do presently as well. And, oh yeah, once the site is up and running, 10th & Pine may close briefly for maintenance and upgrading.

Not a bit of that may be accurate; read and consume at your own risk.

Monk's triumph.
The Stone Brewery dinner at Monk's this past Tuesday night featured as fine a meal as I've ever had there (and, friends, I've had some fine meals there).

It began with Celeriac Soup, enhanced with thin slices of Granny Smith apples, an ideal beginning on a steamy hot night; continued with a pair of medium-size Sauteed Shrimp accompanied by a fruit salsa, and culminated with a perfectly cooked (medium rare) Pork Loin encrusted with Herbs de Provence and an extraordinary potato creation that chef Adam Glickman was reluctant to reveal much about. All of this was followed by a Sour Cherry Mouse with a dark chocolate sauce.

The beers? Tasty Stone IPA with the soup; Arrogant Bastard and Stone Epic 04-04-04 with the shrimp; 2003 Double Bastard (poured from Jéroboams) and Vertical Epic 05-05-05 with the lamb (I didn't understand that latter choice at all) and Smoked Porter and 8th Anniversary Ale with dessert.

And it's back to Monk's tomorrow evening, not for a beer dinner, but for a special Rochefort launch party. Head brewer Gumer Santos and export manager Alfons Vandermolen will be on hand. The press gets first crack at them (and the beers), starting in late afternoon. Things will open up to the public at 7:30 PM or so.

Lord, will the horror ever stop?

Strikes: Current & Impending
I'm way behind on reporting the strike by brewery workers at The Lion in Wilkes-Barre on June. Here's the latest local newspaper story about it. The basic background info from that story:

Lion officials have refused to comment on the situation since the strike began on June 1.

The union voted 89-1 to reject the company’s last offer and to begin the strike. They’ve been working without a paycheck and will not receive strike benefits until the work stoppage is at least 3 weeks old.

Workers say the company offered a 10-cent raise and asked for a $30-a-week contribution to their health insurance plan. The medical insurance plan called for larger co-payments for doctor visits and emergency medical procedures, according to union officials.

[Union President Clarence] Gallagher said he believes the company has enough inventory to make it through part of the summer which, according to beer industry experts is the busiest season for beer sales.

“They have a lot there but maybe not for the whole summer,” Gallagher said.

The union is International Union of Operating Engineers Local 367 and unionized truckers are refusing pick up and distribute Lion beers, according to the story. It also notes that at least one local beer distributor is refusing to accept any additional Lion products until the dispute is settled.

Closer to home, we appear to be very, very close to a strike by drivers for local wholesale beer distributors. I'm not entirely sure what the geographical area involved is--it could be the whole state, comes to that--but I sure hope they work it out before everything goes all to hell.

Patrick Mullin's dream.
Tuesday night, both Drafting Room locations, the 11th Anniversary Ale will be tapped at 6:30 PM. I've had it, it's good. Be there. All the cool guys will be at Exton, where Patrick Mullin, the guy who came up with the idea last year and who helps conceive the beer, will be in all his glory.

The beer, as before, was brewed by Troegs. I've just been told in a telephone call, by the way, that yesterday's Harrisburg event, the one I blew off, was another massive success and raised lots of money for charity. Good on 'em. I'll get details and post a story at the Beer Yard first chance I get.

Or after that. Whenever.

America's (beer) sweetheart.
Big story by Craig LaBan in this morning's Philadelphia Inquirer which might have been headlined Sam's Song, the latest verse. Great stuff. Great for Sam, great for Dogfish Head, great for craft brewing in general. As it turns out, sitting under than tree yesterday, I finished reading Brewing Up a Business for one of those Celebrator reviews. Maybe I ought to rip it, just to keep Sam's feet on the ground? Whatta ya think?

[Posted 2:00 pm edt]

18 June 2005
None dare call it sexist.
(ED NOTE: you know, I think I'm really getting the hang of this "you have a life too" thing. More about that tomorrow.)

Today, in order to fend off the screaming hordes who want more, more, more of my insanely clever, stunningly insightful and sinfully tempting beer thoughts, I worried that I'd have to chain myself to the desk, 'cause...well, I had nuttin'.

Fortunately, the latest report from the international polling service we use to track the innermost feelings and desires of our vast audience, revealed useful, if shocking, news.

It turns out that most everybody around here is just as happy, perhaps even happier, when I post photos of attractive women in lieu of my insanely clever, stunning insightful etc. etc.

Who'd a-thunk it?

On the other hand, the only photo I had in the (literary) fermenter which might fit the bill was this one:

This is a shot of four Miss Universe contestants visiting the Boon Rawd Brewery (brewers of Singha) in Bangkok, which is the site of this year's contest.

Um, make that was the site, since the judging was held on May 31.

Which, of course, presented a situation. Using the photo so long after the fact, well golly, that would just objectify these four chicks, y'know? It would be terribly sexist and demeaning.

Not a problem. A quick internet search revealed...one of these fine young women actually won the title. Yowzah!!

The photo is...well...it's news, dammit.

Miss Canada (second from left) took the title, not least because of her work in the swimsuit category:

She won! She really won!

This bit of entirely non-sexist news has been brought to you by Liquid Diet Online, the politically correct internet beer site.

And, by the way, a well-informed source has revealed to me that our new world champion is, like, 6 feet tall. Give me any argument about this and I'll send her over there to kick your ass.

[Posted 5:35 pm edt]

12 June 2005
<More clever clever?
Loyal reader Tom Mariano has suggested, via email and without directly saying so, that if I thought the promotional posters in the item posted below were hot stuff, I probably never saw this one:

Well, he's right about that--I hadn't seen this before, and it's marvelous, no doubt. but I'm still kinda sold on the comic-booky references in the Royal Stumble promo. That's just me, y'know?

But...hello?

125 beers?

Fifteen countries?

Yo, how many Portapotties?

All I'm sayin'...

[Posted 4:45 pm edt]

8 June 2005
Clever stuff.
I love this promotional poster for the Harrisburg Brewers Fest, a week from this Saturday:

Beer. Space. Food. Portapotties. The four natural elements of beer festivals, and twice as much them to boot. You just don't see this sort of advertising from the wine people, now do you?

And this poster, for next month's Royal Stumble? It could be the best beer promo piece ever:

The Freedom League of Brewers? Let's figure out their secret identities.

International superstar Sam Calagione is surely Superman, and, obviously, Peggy Zwerver and Nancy Barton are Wonder Woman and Black Canary.

The dark, mysterious Chris Leonard makes a fine Batman (I had another idea for a Batman and a Robin, but I get in too much trouble with some people as it is).

Lew Bryson (who provided some input here but is totally innocent otherwise) suggested Chris Firey as The Flash, since he both brews and talks real fast. Dan Weirback works for me as The Atom.

Green Lantern? Aquaman? O'Reilly? Grubb? Worona? It is a puzzlement. Take your choice and the remaining guy can be special guest star Green Arrow.

Finally, I'm thinking Larry Horwitz as Martian Manhunter (bald and green) and I doubt anyone can argue with Chris Brugger as the generic teenage sidekick.

Too bad this is a DC Comics group and not Marvel. Kehoe would have made a helluva Hulk.

[Posted 10:22 am edt]

6 June 2005
What I did next.
When I finally finished posting the DBI trip report yesterday, I once again realized it was a great day outside my windows and, in keeping with my improved new lifestyle (at least until I finally confront the reality of all the deadlines staring at me this month and chain myself to the desk again), I got up and walked away from the computer.

To go outside and sit in the shade, sipping a nice cool tall one and reading one of the books piling up on the coffee table?

It is to laugh.

I did what any normal person would do: I jumped in my damnably hot car (gotta get the A/C fixed this week) and drove the 30 minutes out to Victory. Yep, I'm hopeless, even if I did have the excuse of delivering the new June/July issue of Celebrator Beer News.

Given my always impeccable timing, there weren't many special or new beers on tap in Downingtown; everything seems to be in a holding pattern awaiting the highly touted 2005 Kolsch and semi-mysterious and eagerly anticipated first-ever Saison. Not that I'm complaining: I happily down small glasses of D-town Brown, both draft and cask versions.

Speaking of the Kolsch and Saison, Rick Mayberry, who was at the bar yesterday, was touting the former as absolutely perfect and also said he'd sampled the Saison--putting him one up on Ruch, apparently, which can only lead to trouble. Then again, I do believe there will be a small, private sampling of the Victory brew side-by-side with Dupont Saison this very afternoon, after the Phillies game, and Richard has surely wormed his way into that one.

After a quick visit to Wegmans Food Market--because Mayberry had touted me on a great cheese (he was right) called Humbolt's Dirty Old Raincoat or something like that, resulting in my dropped nearly $100 in what is arguable the nation's best food market chain--I also stopped in at Drafting Room-Exton to give them their Celebrator allotment.

What with all the food I'd left in that steaming car, I only intended to drop off the magazines and keep going, but a quick glance at the chalkboard did me in. I definitely had to try small glasses of Southhampton Imperial Porter (somewhat disappointing, I though, but it might have been that it was definitely served too cold) and Blue Point Hoptical Illusion (a nice, hoppy and quite drinkable IPA, but hardly the marvel that some online reviews had led me to expect).

I hung around long enough to catch Patrick Mullin coming in for his evening shift and tell him how much he'll enjoy his new Drafting Room 11th Anniversary Ale when he gets to taste it (as I did last Wednesday, scroll down to "A Visit to Troegs); he in turn got to tell me that the beer will officially be released on Tuesday, June 21, not June 20 as I'd be told by the Troegs' guys. Mark it down, this time it's official.

[Posted 9:52 am edt]

5 June 2005
Done and done, lads. 'Tis finished.
Within the hour, I completed and uploaded, with various corrections and refinements throughout, the six-page (seven actually, considering one part is broken into two pages due to length) report of the DBI trip to Carlow and London. And they said it couldn't be done...

The latest, and last, installment is here; the introduction and beginning is here and links through to the end.

I don't want to hear any complaints about a dearth of posting around here for a least a week, okay?

[Posted 1:00 pm edt]

4 June 2005
Will this story ever end?
My memories, such as they are, of the second day in London, the wildest day of all, have just been posted. Enjoy. Or not.

[Posted 7:30 pm edt]

3 June 2005

The saga continues...
The story of our first day in London has just been posted. We visit the historic Griffin Brewery where Fuller's beers are brewed and a most unusual and appealing pub. After that? Well, I just lose track.

Hey, it happens.

While we wait to see what secrets are revealed tomorrow as I recount the wildest day of the entire week, check out the book cover to the right. It's Michael Jackson's latest, which he showed me in London. More importantly for our purposes, it plays a role in the tale of how Kerry Byrne was caught red-handed trying to...well, that would be telling. The story will be in tomorrow's posting. Come back and see.

Sly Fox Rauchbier.
Yesterday I alerted you to not dare miss the 11th Anniversary Ale that Troegs has brewed for the Drafting Room. Today, let me be equally insistent that you keep an eye out for the currently in-the-tank Sly Fox Rauchbier. I spent most of the afternoon with Slow Food Philadelphia's Hansjacob Werlen and, after stopping in at Phoenixville to try the Incubus (it is once again Incubus Friday and I'm off to the Fox for more as soon as this is posted), we went to Royersford and O'Reilly gave us samples of same.

To repeat myself from yesterday, but in a different context: wow.

Brian says he's looking to do a smoked food dinner come this Fall at Phoenixville, featuring this and a new Porter he has planned. That will be, my friends, an event. And then some.

[Posted 5:05 pm edt]

2 June 2005
I'll be damned.
I'm as shocked as the rest of you, believe me, but the latest installment of my Europe report is up today, just as promised and planned. Maybe I'm getting the hang of this stuff.

Today's posting covers our second and last day in Ireland, including a visit to Carlow Brewery and the revelation of just which beloved and admired person it was who came to a bad and slippery end in St. Mullin's graveyard. So sad.

If you're new to all this, you can start the Europe story right here and maybe even make sense of it all.

A visit to Troegs.
That's what I did yesterday, driving up to Harrisburg to see the new brewery (professional) and bug Brugger (personal). Unfortunately, the latter (Chris Brugger, who does most of the brewing) was much too busy for me to get the job done right, but the brewery, which John Trogner walked me through, was just as impressive as it sounded when he told us all about it back in January (scroll way down to "Major Upgrade at Troegs," 4 Jan 2005).

Among other things, I got to be the first person outside the brewery to taste the Drafting Room 11th Anniversary Ale, even before Patrick Mullin, who helped design it. Shhhh, don't tell him...what am I saying? Of course tell him. The early bird gets the beer and all that... And tell him further that this year's Anniversary is a big, hoppy amber ale and freakin' delicious. Do not, I repeat, do not, pass up a chance to visit the Drafting Rooms when it's released. I think, but am not entirely sure, that there will be a release event on Monday, June 20.

Also sampled the revamped Wheat beer, which will be released under the seasonal Dreamweaver label. Another winner. Do these guys ever screw up? Apparently not. I was told that, without any geographical expansion whatsoever, Troegs is presently seeing a 30% sales growth this year. Wow.

[Posted 1:18 pm edt]

1 June 2005
And so we begin...
The first two pages of the multi-page report on the DBI trip to Carlow, Ireland and London, England are now up online.

the Introduction repeats most of A Tale of Star-Crossed Lovers as posted here on May 28 but is expanded to introduce our Cast of Characters.

That leads in to this page in which we cross the ocean and spend our first day in Ireland..

Tomorrow I'll post what happened on our second day in Ireland, aptly entitled Slip-Sliding Away.

It was VFBC.
As I'm sure most surmised, the newly-closed brewpub mentioned here yesterday is Valley Forge Brewing Company. The story is here, newly corrected as a result of the eagle eye of Richard Ruch (thanks).

[Posted 10:25 am edt]

Archived.
The complete May 2005 postings have been archived here.

[Posted 10:20 am edt]




Malt does more than Milton can
To justify God's ways to man.

--A. E. Houseman

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